Economics, Technology, Education

Compendium of posts written for JSTOR Daily.

The Downfall of the American Cowboy. 07/10/2019

“America loves cowboys, from the swaggering heroes of the silver screen, to legends like Buffalo Bill, to today’s bestselling videogames, such as Red Dead Redemption 2. Even presidents turn to the iconic cowboy hat and boots to endear themselves to the public and make themselves seem more authentic, capable, and iconically ‘American.’ But in real life, the American cowboy’s fortunes took a turn for the worse long ago.”

Greek Gods and Game Theory. 04/29/2019

“As the myth goes, when Dionysus was captured and tied up by a group of pirates, he effortlessly caused the ropes to fall off. Seeing this, the ship’s helmsman realized they’d inadvertently angered a god, and warned his shipmates to leave him alone. (Despite the warning from the ropes and the helmsman, they don’t. It ends badly.) This correlates with the idea of “signaling.” Signaling is when, through their actions, “players” give other players information about themselves or their “type,” which would impact or inform other players’ strategy.”

Why Companies Swallow Poison Pills. 21/03/2019

“Poison pills take their name from the capsules filled with lethal substances carried by military or espionage agents in case of capture. (The linguistics of mergers and acquisitions is frequently operatic, with terms like “dawn raid,” “white knight,” “shark repellant,” and “golden parachute.”) These “poison pill” measures became popular after 1985, when the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in their favor in Moran vs Household International Inc. After that ruling, companies quickly began adopting them at an extremely high rate.”

Who Was La Malinche? 01/03/2019

“The main players in the Spanish–Aztec War (1519–21) are well known: Hernán Cortés and Montezuma. Lesser-known, though no less important, is a brilliant and multilingual exiled Aztec woman who was enslaved, then served as a guide and interpreter, then became Cortés’s mistress. She was known as Doña Marina, Malintzin, and more widely as La Malinche.”

How “Pyrrhic Victory” Became a Go-To Metaphor.  02/07/2019

“The popular notion is that the term emerged from Pyrrhus’s victory over the Romans at the battle of Heraclea in 279 B.C.E. Pyrrhus was a general, later King of Epirus (an ancient state in Greece). According to many, he lost so many of his friends, generals, and troops in the battles that he declared, ‘One more such victory and Pyrrhus is undone.'”

The Pirate Creed. 07/31/2018

“The cultural view of pirates is one of romantic lawlessness—drunken brawls, hoarded treasures, blood-soaked adventures. We rarely think of pirates running a highly organized, inherently disciplined, and successful mini-society, but in fact pirates were a striking example of the way government and societies form.”

Why Sex and The City is Still in Style. 06/29/2018

“Something about Sex and the City still resonates with many women. Popular culture scholar Ashli Dykes’s analysis of the show’s sophisticated narration structure uncovers how it managed to plunge through its multiple layers of designer fabric into the complexities of modern womanhood.”

What is a Bubble? 03/05/2018

“While this isn’t the first time that Bitcoin has been proclaimed dead, and may well not be the last, the cryptocurrency’s tumultuous nature has reignited the discussion of bubbles: what they are and how we keep letting them happen.”

Why Are Diamonds More Expensive than Water? 2/12/2018

“Suddenly, Cape Town is realizing what many of us take for granted as we run water at full blast while washing our teeth, filling dishwashers daily, and hosing our cars down weekly. Water is simultaneously one of the few things we absolutely cannot live without, and one of the things we value least.”

Why Pay the Costs of a Wedding for One? 11/9/2017

“Self-marriage may be, at least in some cases, a ritual reclaiming a sense of control when women may have felt they’ve lost it.”

Japan’s Solution to Loneliness: Virtual Wives. 11/2/2017

“A purring furry baby seal, Paro, has been used to soothe the elderly, who like nurturing it. Banryu, a personal guard dragon, “prowls the house smelling for smoke and looking for intruders.” Aibo, a robotic pet dog that burst on the scene at the turn of the century, sold over 100,000 units and took up a cherished place in some family homes. (After Sony shut down its last repair center in 2006, Aibo owners so grieved malfunctioning robots that they’d hold Aibo funerals.) Noting the trend of human-robot attachment, in 2008, David Levy theorized a far more “intimate” attachment to robots was to come. Levy is quoted in Caitrin Nicol’s article for The New Atlantis: “…by the year 2050, people will be marrying robots.”

What do Bitcoin and Tulips Have in Common? 10/6/2017

“Yet there remains a hefty amount of reservation. Recently, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Jamie Dimon, said any employee trading bitcoin would be fired for stupidity. Dimon has slammed the currency, denouncing it as a bubble “worse than tulip bulbs.””

After the Hurricanes, Who Cleans Up the Caribbean? 10/2/2017

“While the international community has rushed to assist, the clean-up bill is mostly footed by each country’s government. And despite their location in the Caribbean sea, some of those nations’ leaders are seated in different countries. The islands’ plights have been reminders that despite their small size, overseas territories can be a big responsibility for governments abroad.”

The New Censorship, 9/25/2017

“In the United States, the First Amendment is seen as a cultural cornerstone, and people will rail against the government at any perceived infringement. We’re well-guarded against censorship from our leaders; we know to draw bold lines around our right to free speech and then guard them vigilantly. But the government isn’t the only entity that can censor speech or ideas.”

Is Doxxing the Right Way to Fight The ‘Alt-Right’? 8/30/2017

“While Denning was focused on larger forms of hacktivism—web sit-ins, site defacement and denial-of-service attacks—her underlying concern still applies. What happens when you give significant power to anyone and everyone? Hacktivists can use their power to draw attention to injustice, yes; or they can create chaos.”

What Venezuela Can Teach Us About Saving Failed States, 6/27/2017

“While there are a rainbow of philosophies and suggestions on the ethics and effectiveness of international interference, both Foreign Policyand Foreign Affairs agree that efforts which do not deal directly with the government, and do not dare to carry out real consequences, are of little use.”

Secret Communities: Why We Confess Online, 5/21/2017

“While some secrets may be melodramatic or distinctive (affairs, transgressions, assault), the underlying thread of many confessions resonate across lives and experiences. ‘Many secrets in the project are about the failure of the individual in relation to normative concepts of a (Western) life: home, heterosexuality and its attendant institutions, work, financial security, friendship, and love.'”

Grief? There’s an App for That. 5/9/2017

“There are many models of grief, from Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), to Kries and Pattie’s three stages (shock, suffering and recovery), to Parkes’ four stages (numbness, pining, depression, recovery). All share the idea of refusal to accept the reality of the loss, a sense that what has been taken is rightfully yours and needs to be returned. Parkes in particular describes “an urge to search for and find the lost person.” (Indeed, as James Dean notes, “bereavement” comes from the Old English, meaning “robbed.”)”

Deaths of Despair: What’s Really Killing Americans, 4/20/2017

“Before, the problem was that the nature of the workforce was moving too fast for older workers to keep up with it. Now, the problem is that nature of the workforce is moving too fast for any workers, and has no place for older workers in it at all. Both of these have a direct impact on mental health, with clear implications for the economy.”

The Recipe for Secession: What Makes Nations Leave, 3/23/2017

“Political Sociologist Michael Hechter has explored what the ingredients to a true secession are. His conclusion: secession doesn’t come from one event, but is borne of economic disparities, identity crises, legislative failure, and bad blood.”

How Tech Companies Got in The White House, 3/8/2017

“What gives technology its power isn’t solely its popularity, but its significance to the country’s progress. Tech companies do more than give us easy rides to the airport or fifteen different filters for our selfies. They are economic powerhouses, providing jobs, spurring innovation, conducting research, building a global brand and amassing wealth.”

Examining Trump’s Military Budget, 3/6/2017

“President Trump has declared his intention to increase Pentagon spending by 54 billion next year, reducing foreign aid and environmental programs. Trump’s announcement seems to follow a nationally accepted set of priorities. After all, in many ways the United States’ calling card is its strong military. It’s the second largest in the world (after China), and still considered the strongest. The US spends more on its military than the next seven top spending countries combined.”

The Ethical Case for Profits, 2/8/2017

The idea of a “role differentiated” profession is inherent in our culture. Good soldiers are judged by valor in the field—often manifested by taking human life. Doctors are judged less harshly for prioritizing work over family, if a patient’s health is in peril. Journalists may be considered socially conscious for breaking laws to uncover institutional corruption. Ethics are fluid; we weigh what values are sacrificed for what purpose when making judgements.

Marketing Immortality, 2/2/2017

“We’ve long been fascinated with the ideas of immortality and eternal youth. Around 220 BCE, Emperor Shihuangdi searched for the elixir of life. Juan Ponce de León searched for the Fountain of Youth in the 1500s, and in 1890, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray sold his soul for a perpetually pretty face. The Methuselah Mouse Prize, an award granted to teams that engineer older and healthier mice, took the fantasy out of our myths and put it into our laboratories.”

How Political Events Change Currency Value, 1/27/2017

“Researchers, however, who have tackled the subject have agreed that political events—especially those in democratic societies—do play a role in a currency’s worth, which is not entirely welcome news. It is unnerving to think that the pound sterling, the US dollar, the yen, and the euro are as unstable and unpredictable as the global political landscape, when so much of our lives is inextricably linked to their value.”

Changing the Way We Die, 1/25/2017

The end of our lives is deeply discomfiting, but a reluctance to broach the subject does not influence its inevitability. As Miller’s approach shows, easing one of the most difficult of processes may not be as complex or impossible as we imagine, if we develop the courage to confront it.

What Makes a Career Prestigious, 12/12/2016

“The philosophers, artists and writers of today are not held in the same cultural esteem as they were in the eighteenth century. Airline hostesses, once glamour personified, now simply have a job like the rest of us, albeit it at 10,000 feet. After 2008, bankers fell from grace. Conversely, in the last decade, the ambitious might consider becoming software developers or entrepreneurs just as much as doctors or lawyers.”


Feature photo by Drew Coffman, courtesy of Unsplash.

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